As I write this it’s late February, and another winter weather system is bearing down on me, with a promise of snow and ice and frigid temperatures. It seems that lately whenever my mind starts to drift, it starts me dreaming of cycling.
This isn’t surprising of course. It’s been a long and cold winter, and that takes a toll on every cyclist. There are 3 ways that I know of to get through the winter – the first is simply to put your bicycle away and hibernate until the spring – which has no appeal once you’re on the roads again, because the hibernators have to grind their way back into condition, and that isn’t any fun at all. The second way is to ignore winter – there are those who layer up as much clothing as they can stand and just ride through the cold months. I admire them, because they’re the toughest of all cyclists. I take the middle route between these strategies. I spin on a trainer 5 times a week. I push pedals and go nowhere, with the computer registering “phantom” miles. Some riders count these miles. I don’t. I can’t. To me, that isn’t cycling. It’s several hundred miles per year of going nowhere, and it never feels like I’m cycling. There is no scenery, no feeling of the air flowing by, no feeling of flying, no joy. I can’t use video to fool myself into thinking I’m out on the roads. I can’t make these hours feel like a real ride outdoors. These are hours I spend in a kind of purgatory, alone, pushing my legs and keeping up a base of fitness for that time when the air warms, and my cold weather clothing is warm enough, and I get back on the roads, and the new cycling season starts fresh. If I spin in place, I lose less fitness, and when I ride with friends on those early spring training rides, I hope it will allow me to be in the middle of the group, not laboring along behind it. So I pay the price as the temperature lingers below the freezing mark, and I look impatiently at my calendar, and hope for signs of warmer weather to come, and I spin in place. Spring seems to be waiting just out of reach. I have to be patient. In the meantime, I dream.
As I write this, my bicycle is in the shop for tuning. It’s a good time to do it, while fewer people are thinking about their bicycles. When it comes back to me, my bright red Orbea Onix will have new shift and brake cables, a new chain, the wheels will be trued, the shifting adjusted, and it will have had a general mechanical check-up. This is important every year, and every serious rider will get a yearly mechanical check. However, before the weather warms I’ll have replaced the computer with a model that has an easier to read screen, put on new bar tape, and tended to other fussy little details that are less important when it’s warm enough to just hop on and ride. I’ve been reading cycling websites, and visiting bike shops, and I’ve already purchased all the tires I’m likely to need for the year on sale. In any case, shopping for bicycle gear in the winter is just another kind of bicycle dreaming. When I think of these things, they bring the spring and the riding I crave a little closer.
My email box brings me bicycle dreams on a regular basis. I get notice of ride registrations opening, email from cycling friends to talk of getting together off the bike, and cycling advertisements of all kinds. Some are small reminders, some evoke memories of past rides. I’ve already signed up for two rides this spring – and the memories of those rides from past years weave their way into my cycling dreams.
In my bicycle dreams I’m free – the road rolls and the scene changes; the sun is warm, the breeze is inviting, there are friends riding along, and my breathing is good and it feels like I’m being pulled along with the experience. Every spring these dreams will come true, but for now, with the snow and the wind chill keeping me indoors, these are the dreams that keep me warm.